S7300993

2-“Normal”

I walked softly on the beautiful, plush, padded carpeting, the central air whirled silently whisking us with a constant temperature that was neither hot nor cold. As I looked around in the silence of nightfall I felt a strange and sick nagging at my brain.  Just weeks before we had been struggling, no beds, no comforts and yet now we lived in luxury or so it seemed to me.  In the villa I had felt faint as I stood in the kitchen, the door shut with no access to a/c, and temperatures rising to 115 degrees. But here it was cool and soft and new. That “new” smell was comforting and warm, the house was fully furnished with dishes, china, pots and pans, soft blankets, a spacious hutch to store china and linens, and there were actually linens to be stored.  The dining room was elegant and yet modern,  a lovely “blonde” (as mother would call it)  colored furniture, a slider to the backyard. The window in the living room spanned up to the second floor giving a full view of the compound.  Each bathroom was large, beautifully colored, built in cupboards and enormous tub for soaking. The bathrooms in the villa had been a drab color full of chipped tiling, splotches of spackle and easy access for cockroaches to enter from the gaping hole in the floor.  We had not been allowed to watch television in the villa until I found a way and finally bargained for this tiny luxury. But here we had satellite which meant cartoons, children’s shows and many other Western programs. Although we could not hang pictures or have anything personal displayed, this was the closest to a warm and homey feeling I had felt since leaving my childhood home to make my way off to University. When I left the crazy house a mile up the winding, dirt road on the hill, I thought little of what came next. I was a jazz singer and always would be. I was merely moving on to the next chapter in my career. Mother was a nurse with her M.B.A. who had become a successful hospital administrator, at a time when that was not such a common thing. So, naturally I could do anything, accomplish whatever I set my mind to. It was never questioned or discussed, finish high school, go to University and have a career. But, along the way make music and try to go on the road with a jazz quartet.

I went to visit my sister that summer, it was my sophomore year at Central. I was young and naive, I had met other guys, but it never quite worked out and those dreams of finding that one true love faded with each passing day. My sister was attending summer school and had met a young Saudi man. I arrived for this visit after a 4 hour drive through the beautiful rolling hills of the Palouse and surrounding area.  She mentioned that a nice, clean cut Palestinian man had moved in next door and I should be open minded. I laughed at the thought but as always things happen that we do not plan, a larger picture takes over and we are lost in a forest of sorts, an unending weave of thoughts and dreams. Those two short days would change my life forever and bring me the most difficult years of my life but also the most treasured gifts I would never trade.

The glass goblet filled with Roz Halib (Rice pudding)  came crashing down on the beautiful new dining room table, it made a huge thud as it landed. The glass in the hutch doors every so slightly shimmered as they shook. The questioning had begun, which always started with the key words, “what did you put in this?” Each time these words were uttered my heart started pounding and my palms began to sweat.  I felt  I felt my insides turn but knew I must put on a cold and sterile face to get past, any sign of weakness or tears only made things worst. The drill seemed to get harder and the questions would never be satisfied yet each time I employed a new and better technique, not knowing at that time that nothing would ultimately be the “right” answer. I spent many hours in between these episodes analyzing these incidents and making plans of what I would change in my manner to keep him calm. As he had told me many times I was too sensitive and must change this fault in my character.  I knew this meant I was in for the long haul and learned to answer questions as asked and stand at attention, showing nothing of my insides crumbling. I explained in detail how I had made the pudding and what I had done each step carefully mapped out. I bit my inner lip to keep from shaking and showing any tears. I watched his face hoping that my answers met with his approval and this would quickly pass. It was always hard to tell if an incident would turn into an event or merely a quick blip.  I added in that I had made it many times before and also, the neighbor who was anArab lady had taught me how. He picked it up, scooped out a blob and plopped it back in as if it were slop for a pig. “No, it has never been good, no it has always been garbage!!” His words got louder with each utterance and his face became red and infuriated.  I spoke quietly to divert his attention from this wreck and told him yes he was right, I was wrong. I needed this to end so that the household could go back to “normal”.